International conference on snow leopard kicks off


18th Jan, 2017 | Tourism Mail Crew


KATHMANDU, Jan 18: Forest and Environment Ministers, wild life experts, conservationists and high delegates from 12 countries that host the endangered snow leopard have begun a Management Planning Stocktaking Workshop here from Tuesday.

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The workshop is aimed at taking stock of the global efforts and the progress made towards protecting the snow leopard and its habitat. It will also deliberate on the next step towards that end.

Opening the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Programme as part of the conference, Minister for Forests and Soil Conservation Shankar Bhandari said the government has undertaken works for the protection of the snow leopard on a priority basis.

The Minister said the human-wildlife conflict, natural disasters, climate change, habitat loss and poaching are posing a challenge in the protection of the snow leopard, adding that harsh laws have been brought to crack down on poaching and trafficking in wildlife parts.

Snow leopard is found in Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Mongolia, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan besides Nepal.

Minister of State for Forests and Soil Conservation Dirgha Raj Bhat described the snow leopard as an important component for a healthy ecosystem of the high mountain areas. Expressing happiness over the organization of an important conference in Nepal, he hoped that the conference would come up with key suggestions and recommendations on the protection of the snow leopard and its habitat. The meeting will also be useful in exploring ways of raising the living standards of the people living in the high mountain areas through ecotourism, he noted.

Acting Secretary at the Ministry Prem Narayan Kandel said the Ministry has brought a well-planned strategic programme to deal with the challenges seen in the protection of the snow leopard.

Accordingly, the Ministry has divided the mountainous region where the snow leopard is found into three zones and implemented the conservation programme. The three zones include the region from Mt Kanchanjangha in the east to the Mt Ganesh, the area from Mt Manaslu up to Mt Dhawalagiri and the region from the Kaligandaki River to Api Nampa conservation area.

Chairman of the Conference Organising High-level Committee and former secretary at the Ministry, Krishna Chandra Poudel, said the negative impact of climate change has had much effect in the high mountain areas. He said efforts aimed at protecting the snow leopard would ultimately contribute to the conservation of the Himalayan environment itself.

According to the Organising Committee, the snow leopard population is in the range of 300 to 500 in Nepal and 3,500 to 7,000 in the world.

It is stated that the conclusions of the conference would be presented in the second snow leopard high-level steering committee to be held in Nepal on January 18.

In the programme, Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP) secretariat's Dr Koustubh Sharma, GSLEP partner from the USAID  Mr Karl Wurster, GSLEP partner from WWF Dr Ghana Shyam Gurung, among other speakers, stressed on joint efforts and governments' commitment for combating the challenges in terms of snow leopard protection.

GSLEP is a joint initiation of the civil societies and the international and private organisations from 12 countries where the snow leopard is found. Its goal is to protect the natural habitat of the snow leopard.

The high-level meeting will prepare the agenda for the snow leopard summit and the green investment conference to be held in Kazakhstan in mid-2017.